Activists decry revision, say it clouds futures
Kittiratt plan puts applications from public, informal workers on hold
Workers' rights activists have called on the government to drop its plan to amend the pension law, saying more than 30 million informal labourers are being denied the opportunity to benefit from the fund while a revision is considered.
The move comes after Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong proposed revising the 2011 National Pension Fund Act, which took effect on May 8, 2012. Because of the proposed revision, the fund is still not accepting applications from members of the public who want to begin contributing to the fund, which has a maximum applicant age of 60.
"More than 30 million informal workers have already lost a chance to put their money into, and get benefits from, this fund," said Sujin Rungsawang, president of the Informal Worker Network.
The network earlier submitted a petition to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, asking her to drop the plan to revise the act and asking the Labour Ministry to issue a ministerial regulation allowing members of the public to apply to join the fund.
There has been no response from the government, Sujin said.
The National Pension Fund is designed as a mechanism to cope with the "greying" of the country's population, catering mainly to the more than 30 million people not eligible for coverage under existing retirement schemes. The new universal pension scheme would involve compulsory saving for retirement by young and old workers alike, rather than waiting for help from the government or family members.
Applications are open to people aged 15 to 60. They are required to contribute some of their income to the fund, while the government puts in a contribution.
Arunee Sritho, an informal-sector worker, worried that the revision would affect her eligibility for the fund, as she turns 60 this year.
"My entire future now depends on Kittiratt's decision on whether to go ahead with his plan or just drop it," she said.
Chanachai Proyoonsin, chief of the Finance Ministry's Fiscal Policy Office, said the ministry had set up an Office of the National Pension Fund and established a registration system to check the eligibility of applicants. But the fund cannot accept applications until the ministry issues ministerial regulations and gets Cabinet approval to proceed.
"I personally want this fund to move forward as fast as it can, but the ministry proposed that the Cabinet revise the National Pension Act, and we will have to wait until the revision process is complete," he said.